I have been struggling with writing this entry. Keep in mind that we all view ourselves differently at times than the world does – and this has never been truer than when it comes to my reflection I see in the mirror.
The person I see in the mirror has changed some over the past decade, but the truth is that my body has changed drastically. As a pre-teen and teenager, I struggled with my weight and the girl that I saw in the mirror was not very pretty. I would see my friends and wish that I was more petite or more flat chested. As the years passed and the weight struggle continued, I found guys that saw past the weight and they made me feel sexy and empowered. I knew my weight was ballooning and not healthy. I sought out advice and help from my doctor and he continued to tell me to just eat better and exercise more. As I entered my 30s, the number on the scale was in the high 200s and it seemed like nothing I did would change it. Dressing in busty tops and embracing what body I had was becoming easier for me. I knew my husband loved me for me and NEVER EVER told me that I was fat or needed to lose weight. My friends would compliment outfits and tell me I was pretty. The terms overweight, obese or unhealthy never crossed their lips. The only person that ever admitted that I really needed to do something was the doctor and his solution was always a pill or a diet.
By late 2005, I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to see a new doctor and get a second opinion on my health. I was tipping the scale at well over 300 pounds. At the time, when I looked in the mirror, I knew I was overweight, I just didn’t SEE I was that big. I found a new doctor and right away I explained my struggles and he sent me for labs and to an endocrinologist and a different gynecologist. My new team of doctors determined that I was diabetic, anemic and my hormone levels were unacceptable. And lastly, I had some serious issues with my ovaries. We got to work on all the above listed items. I immediately started to read books on what I should and shouldn’t eat and changed my diet to best reduce sugars and increase iron in my life and that of my family. My husband and son were very supportive. I even enlisted a couple of friends to be people to hold me accountable when I made poor choices. I soon also found out I had severe sleep apnea. Exercise was never my most favorite thing but it was also never my enemy. So walking as much as possible became a priority. I started to lose a pound every couple of weeks. Then, the game changer happened.
I went in for a check-up in June of 2006. My doctor explained a procedure he would like me to consider called gastric bypass. He had already spoken with my insurance company and since I had always had an annual physical and questioned my weight and my doctor has missed my diabetes (which I found out I was supposed to have been informed about at least 6 years prior) and my hormone deficiencies, they were willing to pay for most of the procedure. It was all so much so fast! The doctor said that once I met with the surgeon and start down the path it would 6 to 18 months until I would have the actual surgery. Feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure, I told Steven everything. He and I decided to go to a meeting to learn more about it and meet with the surgeon. We figured I had plenty of time to change my mind over the next several month. I made the call and we were scheduled for an education seminar in early July. We went and got an appointment 3 days after the seminar with the doctor. I met with the doctor. I was a terrific candidate for the procedure. I only needed a mental health evaluation and to meet with a dietician. I did those both the next week. By the end of July, I was on the list for the procedure. I all happened so fast. But I still believed I had time. So, I took a trip to LA and spend some girl time with my bestie and our LA Family. I had only been there a couple of days when I received the call that someone had cancelled their surgery and if I could be surgery ready in 11 days. I said YES. My bestie and some of her co-workers supported, encouraged and helped me to drop 10 pounds. When I landed in LA. I was weighing 320 pounds. With the strict food program and exercise I was doing there, I dropped 10 pounds by the time went into surgery at the beginning of August.
Once I woke up from surgery, I was ready to get to work. I made a promise to myself and God that I would do everything I was told and get myself healthy. The idea of living to see Dru grow up and live his life and spend my golden years driving Steven crazy all crossed my mind. Those were great reasons to do it all. But I had read once, that losing the weight for a special occasion or person can be short-lived and that ultimately, you should do it for God and yourself. He had created me for a purpose and that purpose would never happen if I can’t care for the ONE body He gave me. I ate like I was told. I cooked new and interesting dishes. And I exercised 5 days a week. Most of my family and friends were supportive and encouraging as I moved forward every day. I met some resistance from some that thought I was taking the easy way out or thought I had made my choice to have surgery on vanity.
Those things hurt me. I never saw it as an easy way to do it. Being cut open, having a piece of me removed and then living with all the side effects for life is not easy. And to think I did it for vanity sake was the furthest thing from the truth. As the weight came off and my body started to change, I became less and less confident about me. The person in the mirror staring back at me was not me. My body was shifting and changing in ways that I never expected. I didn’t know how to dress this new body and was uncomfortable about all the compliments. I was, very honestly, terrified! I didn’t feel sexy or powerful. I felt like people noticed me and I couldn’t understand why. This thinner, twisted version of my former self was strange. I just wanted to go back to being Monie. Then I remembered I made a promise. I refocused and made new goals and looked to those who have always had my back. I ran my first run. I did a leg of the Beach to Bay run in Corpus. That was huge for me!! And then I started to focus on a trip to Paris for a a friend’s wedding.
I was shopping for dresses and outfits to wear for this trip that would take me the farthest I had ever been from home. I spent days going from thrift to thrift store to hunt down clothing. Mostly, I avoided spending money on clothes because I didn’t feel comfortable going into the mall and asking for help to find clothes. I felt so awkward about what size I wore and what was okay on my new body. Looking at myself in a mirror could be confusing! If I was covered in clothing, I looked one way. I looked “normal”. Without full coverage clothing, skin hung in strange places and I looked like a saggy mess. But, I continued to exercise and do my best to take care of myself. At times, I would feel selfish putting my needs first. When cooking meals, it became about what I wanted and should eat. Grocery shopping was a much longer process with label reading and re-education on every trip. All I knew was that I felt great and my body was working much more efficiently and I wanted to be the best me I could before I climbed on that plane. Little did I know how much I needed this trip with my guys and some of my closest friends.
With bags packed and passports in hand, we left the USA and headed to France. I thought this would be an eye opening and great educational experience for my 11 year old son. My son loved France and did have an amazing experience, but I was the one that had the eye opening moment! I realized that this body was different and strange BUT it was mine. I knew it wasn’t what I had envisioned and I also began to see those that see me for me – would always see Monie. The only person being super obsessed with the bizarre shape in the mirror was myself. My friends and family that were in France with us treated me the same and loved me the same. I was the same person I was the previous year before I had gastric and that would never change. The “Thing” that needed to change was my mindset and this would not happen overnight. What I did know for a fact was that I would do this and just had to continue to keep my Father God in the center and hold tight to my support system of family and friends. Little did I know that this road would be a big mountain to climb, but at least I would be surrounded by a fabulous group of people and that the person staring back at me would always be me.